Who do you think you are, Julius Shakespeare?
Lily’s father T. Ray addresses Lily when he catches her reading at the beginning of the novel. His comment feels especially brutal to Lily because she loves reading so much. Obviously, T. Ray is not a learned man, and his comment reflects his desire to put his daughter down, stemming from his own insecurities and his complex, tense relationship with his daughter. Over the novel, however, storytelling proves to be a vital way the characters establish connections with each other.
For days I carried the notebook everywhere. I wrote constantly.
Lily recounts how she carried the notebook Zachary gave her everywhere. Zachary realizes that reading and writing are important to Lily and he wants to support her. With this gift, Zachary sparks not only a tender friendship with Lily but also a way for Lily to firmly establish a place for herself in the world. Lily will go on to make up and write stories about the people around her. Her writing allows her to connect with others and escape the harshness of her circumstances.
“Really, it’s good for all of us to hear it again,” she said. “Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.”
August addresses gatherers at a Sunday service for the Daughters of Mary in the pink house. This event marks Lily’s and Rosaleen’s first experiences with August’s special service and serves as an introduction into her unconventional religious community. August declares that she will recite the story of “Our Lady of Chains,” a special story that recounts the history of the statue of Mary that serves as the centerpiece of their community. This story binds the Daughters of Mary and honors their special history as the descendants of slaves. As August claims, without this story, their identities would be lost.